May 2, 2007
Issued on behalf of Environment and Heritage Service
HAVE YOU HEARD YOUR FIRST CUCKOO CALL OF THE SPRING?
The Environment and Heritage Service’s "It’s in our Nature" campaign has joined forces with National Museums of Northern Ireland and the RSPB to call for help in recording what is for many the distinctive sound of Spring – the call of the cuckoo.
Louise McAlavey of EHS’s Biodiversity Unit explains: "For many people hearing a cuckoo is a sure sign that Spring has arrived but in recent years it is possible that their numbers may have gone into decline. This year we’ve created an official ‘Cuckoo Recording Card’ and we’d like people across Northern Ireland to use one to help us gather as much data as possible so we can begin to build a better understanding of cuckoo numbers locally."
Cuckoos have a fascinating lifestyle where they secretly lay their eggs in the nest of other birds. Their eggs hatch earlier and their chicks grow quicker, usually bullying the other chicks out of the nest! They don’t go to the trouble of building their own nests!
You are much more likely to hear a cuckoo than to see one as they stay well hidden. Their distinctive call is easy to identify.
What to listen for: Males – Cuc-cooo while females have a bubbling call. To hear it, log onto the RSPB website on www.rspb.org.uk and search for cuckoo or go directly to the webpage at:
What to look for: Dove size, blue grey birds with a slim body and pointed wings like a small bird of prey such as a kestrel or sparrowhawk. Juveniles are grey-brown and heavily streaked.
Where to look: Cuckoos are found across Northern Ireland in moorland, wetland, woodland and farmland. They’re most common in western parts but do occur in the east - for example, Murlough National Nature Reserve in Co. Down.
What to do: Log onto www.biodiversityni.com and click on ‘Things to do’ where you can download the official ‘Cuckoo Recording Card’. All you then need to do is to complete the card and return it to the address given.
Seamus Burns, Biodiversity Officer for the Lough Neagh Wetlands said, “this recording project is an opportunity for the people of the Lough Neagh Wetlands to send in records of where and when they hear cuckoos. It is hoped that as many people as possible get involved in this survey so that the Environment & Heritage Service, RSPB and the Ulster Museum can get a better understanding of the cuckoos arrival and behaviour while here in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately the opportunity to spot cuckoos is quite brief so we need all the help we can get."